How to get full custody of a child | Men’s Legal Center


How to get full custody of a child?

Imagine a ship sailing through the stormy seas. The ship is the child, and the two parents are the captains. In a perfect world, the two captains would work together to navigate the ship safely through the storm. 

But sometimes, one of the captains becomes unfit to lead. Perhaps they are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Maybe they are abusive or neglectful. In these cases, the other captain may need full custody of the ship.

Getting full custody of a child can be challenging. But if you believe it is in your child’s best interests, you may need to fight for it. This blog will provide you with the information you need to start the process.

What is full custody?

Full custody is a child custody arrangement in which one parent has physical and legal child custody. It means that the child lives with the custodial parent full-time. And the custodial parent has the sole authority to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as their education, healthcare, and religious upbringing.

The non-custodial parent may still have some visitation rights, but these rights are typically limited and subject to the custodial parent’s approval. In some cases, the non-custodial parent may also be required to pay child support.

When is full custody awarded?

Courts will only award full custody if they believe it is in the child’s best interests. This means that the other parent must be unfit to share custody.

Abuse or neglect

Abuse or neglect is the most common reason for a court to award full custody. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Neglect is when a parent fails to provide their child with the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.

Substance abuse

Substance abuse is another common reason for a court to award full custody. Substance abuse can impair a parent’s ability to care for their child and create an unsafe home environment.

Mental illness

Mental illness can also be a reason for a court to award full custody if the illness prevents the parent from caring for their child safely and effectively.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is another serious concern for courts. Courts avoid giving custody to parents with a history of domestic violence because it could put the child in danger.

Criminal record

Having a criminal record, especially for violent crimes or child abuse/neglect, can affect your chances of getting full custody of your child.

Examples of how these reasons can make a parent unfit to share custody:

  • A parent who physically abuses their child is clearly unfit to share custody. The child is at risk of being harmed by the parent, and the parent may not be able to control their anger.
  • A parent’s addiction to drugs or alcohol can prevent them from providing proper care for their child. The parent may be neglectful, or they may put the child in danger while intoxicated.
  • A parent with a serious mental illness may not be able to care for their child safely. The parent may have delusions or hallucinations, or they may be unable to make rational decisions.
  • A parent who has a domestic violence history is a danger to their child. The child may witness the violence, or they may be the victim of the violence themselves.
  • A parent with a criminal record, especially a criminal record involving child abuse or neglect, is unfit to share custody. The parent has shown a willingness to put their child at risk.

It is important to note that these are just examples. Courts will consider all factors in a custody case, including the child’s best interests, before deciding. If you are concerned that your child is in danger, or if you believe that the other parent is unfit to share custody, you should contact a divorce lawyer

How to get full custody of a child

If you are considering filing for full custody of your child, there are a few critical steps you must take:

  1. Gather evidence. This is the most crucial step, as you must prove to the court that the other parent is not fit to share custody. Evidence can include:
  • Police report for domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect
  • Medical records for injuries or illnesses caused by the other parent
  • Witness statements from people who have seen the other parent abuse or neglect the child
  • Proof of substance abuse or mental illness
  • Criminal records
  1. File a petition with the court. This document will outline your reasons for seeking full custody and provide evidence to support your claims. The necessary forms are found on the court website or at the courthouse.
  1. Serve the other parent with notice of the petition. This must be done following the law in your state. You can serve the other parent yourself or hire a process server to do it for you.
  1. Attend a custody hearing. You will present your evidence and your case to the judge at the hearing. The other parent will have the opportunity to do the same. The judge will then rule on custody based on the child’s best interests.

Tips for winning a full custody case as a mother

Historically, US courts favored mothers in child custody cases. Mothers were considered the primary caregivers, so they had an easier path to full custody than fathers. 

However, courts now usually favor joint custody agreements in the child’s best interests. If you’re a mother seeking full custody of your child, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Even if a parent doesn’t have child custody, they still have some parental rights, such as the right to make decisions about their child’s education, health care, religion, and the right to spend time with their child.
  • Understand if and how paternity has been settled in your case. Fathers who have children within a marriage are generally granted paternity rights automatically. 

The mother is usually granted full legal custody for children born outside of marriage if she isn’t in a relationship with the father. In other states, having the father’s name on the birth certificate doesn’t grant paternity rights automatically.  

Further, under specific state laws, without established paternity rights, mothers are not obliged to give visits with the child to the father. 

To establish paternity outside of marriage, the mother and father must voluntarily sign an acknowledgment of the paternity form.

  • Mothers going through a divorce or unmarried mothers facing full custody battles against fathers who have established paternity will likely encounter significant challenges and a potentially lengthy trial.
  • Some states do not automatically grant paternity rights to fathers whose names are on the birth certificate. In other states, mothers are not legally required to allow visitation with the father without established paternity rights.
  • Mothers and fathers can establish paternity outside of marriage by signing an acknowledgment of paternity form.
  • Mothers seeking full custody in a divorce or unmarried mothers facing a paternity-established father may face a longer and more challenging trial.

Tips for winning a full custody case as a father

In recent decades, US family law has shifted from a near-automatic assumption of maternal custody to a preference for joint custody between parents. It reflects a growing awareness of the value of both fathers and mothers in their children’s lives.

However, despite this shift, fathers who seek full custody of their children often face a higher standard of proof than mothers. It is likely due to many factors, including traditional gender roles and stereotypes about the ability of fathers to parent effectively.

As a result, fathers who seek full custody must be prepared to demonstrate that they are the primary caregivers for their children and that they have a strong bond with them. They must also show that the other parent is unfit to share custody, either due to abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or other factors.

Here are some specific examples of the types of evidence that fathers may need to present to win a full custody case:

  • Fathers may present school records, medical records, and extracurricular activity schedules to document their involvement in their children’s lives.
  • Affidavits from friends, family members, and teachers attest to their parenting skills and their close bond with their children.
  • Expert testimony from psychologists or child development specialists can give you valuable insights into the importance of both parents in a child’s life and the potential negative consequences of removing a child from their primary caregiver.

While it is challenging for fathers to win total custody cases, it is certainly possible. Fathers can give themselves the best chance of success by carefully preparing their case and presenting strong evidence.

Don’t hesitate to consult with the best legal counsel to help you through this challenging process.

What to consider when pursuing full custody

Before you pursue full custody, it is crucial to understand what it means. You will always be responsible for every aspect of your child’s life. Consider your motivations for pursuing full custody. Don’t assume that having more money makes it easier to win. 

Managing Custody Battles and Strengthening Family Bonds

Remember that the court is more concerned with dividing marital assets fairly and finding the best living situation for the child than punishing socioeconomic differences. To win full custody, you must prove you are a more engaged and better parent, regardless of your financial status.

The law varies from state to state, so it is vital to have professional guidance. Even with the best intentions, many parents must understand the legal language and processes or begin the process. 

This is one of the biggest mistakes parents who want full custody can make. It is helpful to start talking to a lawyer early on, even before your marriage ends if you are married. It would be best to start collecting a paper trail later on.

Avoid alienating or talking negatively about your co-parent. This can damage your case and weaken your family ties. Even if one parent has full custody, the courts expect both parents to be involved in their child’s life unless there are harmful circumstances. Discussing this approach with your child custody lawyer is advisable to ensure that you adhere to the best legal practices.

They also hope both parents encourage a loving relationship between the other parent and the child. 

Put your emotions aside and demonstrate an understanding of the importance of the other parent’s role in your child’s life. Prove that you can best facilitate their continued connection.

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